Matthew Lickona 9:21 a.m., Sept. 29
A cup of weak tea indeed from director Joe Wright, one that sorely needs a shot of something stronger to brace it for the unenviable task of manufacturing drama out of the question of whether Prime Minister Winston Churchill will take Britain into war with Germany or sit down for peace talks with Adolf Hitler. Gary Oldman, visually unrecognizable but vocally present, plays the British Lion as mostly toothless: doddering, doubtful, and deeply dependent on his adoring wife, his sympathetic sovereign, and (oh, the hilarity) his plucky public. Because how else will you know to cheer at the end if the butterfly doesn’t emerge from its sarcophagal chrysalis, waving its newfound wings in the morning air? But it’s the script that is the real stinker here, laden with insipid humor (“We’re broke.” “I’ll economize; only four cigars a day.”), ginned-up drama (can we possibly sacrifice 4000 soldiers to save 300,000?), and gobs and gobs of painful exposition. Personal exposition, philosophical exposition, political exposition. And yet for all that telling about how it was, the film feels much more like happy fantasy than detailed history, a fond look back on the lead-up to a moment of moral righteousness. 2017.